1 Comment

5 Things about Creating Equitable Hiring Practices in Your Financial Planning Firm

Cait Howerton, AFC®, is relatively new to the financial planning profession—but she’s already making waves. Howerton is an advocate for inclusion and equity in the financial planning profession. She’s an LGBTQ-plus and student loan money specialist. 

Howerton is passionate about helping other people find purpose and meaning in their finances and wants to help the financial planning profession grow to start connecting with people from all backgrounds and sexual orientations. In a recent episode of my podcast, Howerton shared her story about how she interviewed at a larger firm and immediately connected with the interviewers. However, upon meeting her in person, she was told she wouldn’t resonate well with their clients, and they thanked her for her time.

Discriminatory hiring is still happening in the financial planning profession (and beyond). Unfortunately, many firm owners aren’t sure how to align their hiring process with their diversity goals. Howerton recently gave us actionable tips to implement better hiring practices and other ways financial planning firms can start to pursue inclusivity.

1.) You almost left the planning profession. What made you stay? 

I almost deuced out of the financial planning profession because of that experience. It had already been challenging for me as I grew up in Arkansas a member of the LGBTQ-plus community—which isn’t really readily accepted still, even in 2019—so seeing myself in the profession and having visibility was something that I didn’t have at that time.

I think my own passion for what we do [made me stay]. I didn’t want someone else to be the end of my story. That wasn’t a period, it was a semicolon, like Project Semicolon, just keep going. It gets better. For me that was the point that I was like, I have to keep going because there are people out there who need help with their finances and they need help with their money scripts and they need to be able to see people like us in this profession so that they know that they are not alone.

2.) You’ve interviewed at different firms and have some knowledge around hiring practices. What are some of the best practices that you can share from the firm you’re with now?

First start with yourself. Go take an intrinsic bias test. Harvard offers a good one. We all carry biases within us that were ingrained since we were kids. It’s very hard to break those things, but we can at least start with being aware of them, addressing them, seeing how those subliminal things pop up within us to see how we would see someone else and then how we present ourselves.

From there, the next place would be your job posting. Check out the language you’re using when you’re running your job posting. Is it heavily feminine? Is it heavily masculine? There are feminine words, which are lighter, and there are masculine alert words, which hit harder. When you put a lot of words like dominate, aggressive, things like that, it starts to lead the job posting in a more masculine direction. You can throw those through an online screener—there are several available.

Studies have shown that by using fewer masculine words, you attract more women and other minority group members, but it doesn’t have a negative impact on men.

If you’re focused on gender equity, which you should be, that’s where you want to start. The next thing is your posting location. More men are hired based on word of mouth. They use their network, versus more women and minorities who more use third-party listing sites. So, make sure you have an online presence.

3.) Most jobs are found via word-of-mouth in your community—so if your community is homogeneous and everyone looks and thinks just like you, then you’re going to just hire more people just like you. What are some of the other things that these firm owners or people who are in the hiring space can do now? They’ve posted the job, they’ve made sure they posted it at various locations. What’s next?

The next thing is your screening and interview process. Are you doing an open resume or a closed resume? What [a closed resume] means is when you get resumes or applications coming through, and they are passed off to an assistant or someone who’s not involved with the hiring process—or even if it’s you—print them off and go through every single paper copy, then have them cut [or you cut] out the name. If you’re going through resumes in a digital form, which is a little more difficult, have someone else screen those resumes or even print them off. Take the name off of resumes because a female or someone who has a black or brown name, there [might be] that intrinsic bias that’s going to pop up again and they have less of a chance to get hired just because of their name.

4.) You’ve gone through the recruiting process, you’ve posted the description, they’ve gone through the interview process and now the person is hired. What type of benefits should firms be looking at to include the planners we want to bring into our profession?

The first thing that comes to mind is parental leave. I say parental, you’ll notice, I didn’t say maternity or paternity leave because it’s parents and we have a bunch of diverse family types. This isn’t just about LGBTQ family types—you’ve got a single mom, you potentially have a mom and aunt, you have a nuclear family, you have an extended family. So that is something that’s very important when you’re considering drafting out your policy.

If your parental leave policy is that if a woman carries a child and she gets 12 weeks, does their partner also get 12 weeks? Do they get to be home when that baby is brought into the world? And what about adoption? That can be for female individuals, for male individuals. Do you offer the same benefits to people who are adopting and even if it’s not 12 weeks, is it four weeks, six weeks? I’ve seen things like primary caregiver and secondary caregiver. What does that mean? Because I know for sure that both people or all three people are caregiving in that house.

I think it’s really important to visit that because what you’re doing there is making sure that it’s a level playing field. Everyone’s receiving the same financial benefits from your company, but you’re also making sure that their family unit is tended to so that when they come back to work, you know that they’re good.

5.) What about the client side? What should we be thinking about when we’re thinking about our website and wanting to be planners to all types of clients?

You have to understand what your website is for. Your website is your front door to your business. In this day in age, we have a presence that is larger than just the town or city that you’re currently in. So you’re able to generate clients and show who you are online in a way that we never have been able to before. The thing to start with is who and what are on your website? Go look at that copy and go look at those photos on your website. You want to see that you have representation of white, black, brown, Asian, Middle Eastern, everybody, if you want to show that you are willing to work with any person, and not just someone who looks like you.

That leads to other things also, such as do you have any LGBTQ individuals on your website? Do you have any people with disabilities on your website? Seeing yourself within a page and within a space creates an initial safety in your [potential clients’] subconscious. Same thing with your copy. If you focus on working with women, you’re probably going to say something about it. But if you also want to let people know, hey, if you’re LGBTQ, you’re absolutely welcome here. Throw that up within a diversity statement and potentially even create a landing page. Talk, write some articles, write blog posts, show that you understand the issues that that particular community faces.

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.


1 Comment

9 Things Advisers Can Do to Connect with Younger Clients

There’s a lot of information out here about the characteristics of millennials and Gen Z (millennials were born between 1980 and 1994, and Gen Z from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s). But, there’s not much out there on how these characteristics impact financial advisers and what advisers should do to make sure they’re well positioned for these future clients.

So, here are some characteristics of younger clients along with some (relatively easy) ideas to help financial advisers to be more relatable to younger generations.

They’ve never used a desktop computer. Imagine them walking into your office and thinking, “What are those big boxes under everyone’s desk?”

Easy fix: Have laptops and iPads. Don’t have desktop computers in your office; at least not in client meeting rooms.

They take notes on their smart phone. But, they know that older people, particularly people in positions of authority, think they’re texting.

Easy fix: During a meeting, say “…and hey… if you want to take notes on your phone, please go ahead.”

They’ve never watched cable. They didn’t “cut the cord”—they never had a cord to begin with.

Easy fix: If you’re looking to find common ground over a TV series, pick something you know is on Netflix; or just stick to “Game of Thrones”—everyone watches that.

Being an influencer or a gamer is a current or future job opportunity. And, it can be quite lucrative. There are even a few advisers already specializing in this niche. To that point, Merrill Lynch had a booth at this year’s Twitchcon.

Semi-easy fix: Know the top social platforms, gaming platforms, and games – at least by name. Here’s a link to the top streamed games on Twitch in 2019.

They have a “fight the power” mentality. I mean, look at the political environment they’re growing up in.

Easy fix: When talking about financial decisions, always have an alternative. In fact, use your preferred approach as the alternative. For example, “People your age usually go with a 60/40 portfolio, but if you really want to push the envelope, you could go with a 70/30.”

They respond to edgy campaigns.

Easy fix: Slow down on the uber-professionalism. Not so much that you’ll be perceived as fake, but maybe try something edgy like having an Instagram account. Or…have some funny memes on the wall (if you don’t know what a meme is, well, you might be too far gone).

They prefer videos.

Easy fix and not-so-easy fix: Offer to meet over FaceTime. Then, use interactive video reports in lieu of quarterly paper reports. (I suspect we’ll see a bunch more vendors popping up who specialize here very soon.)

They’re global and more diverse than ever.

Easy fix: Make sure your office looks the same. And if it doesn’t yet, at least avoid the company pictures on the website where the whole team is together on a golf course with sunblock and polos. You know what I’m talking about.

They love giving their opinion! They grew up in a world where Instagram accounts become viral influencers by having nothing other than polls. This means, younger generations are following accounts for the sole purpose of giving their opinion.

Easy fix: Ask their opinion. About everything. Often. There are affordable—or free—survey tools that you can use, like Google surveys. And, they can be sent via text.

It also wouldn’t hurt to learn some of the lingo, or else your younger clients may be sus.

Stay cool.

Dani Fava

In her role as the director of innovation at TD Ameritrade Institutional, Dani Fava oversees the development of advanced investment management and technology tools designed to help independent registered investment advisers compete and thrive in a world of accelerating change. Having managed the launch of TD Ameritrade’s award-winning iRebal on Veo portfolio rebalancing technology, Fava rolled out the award-winning Model Market Center, TD Ameritrade Institutional’s innovative approach to bringing outsourced investment management capabilities to RIAs. Fava is also responsible for implementing voice-first capabilities at TD Ameritrade, which will employ conversational AI that can communicate with advisers. Fava joined TD Ameritrade in 2012 where she puts more than 15 years of wealth management knowledge to work. She was recently named one of the top 16 Women in Wealthtech, and one of the top influencers in Fintech and AI. She loves to talk about big data, finserv start-ups, artificial intelligence, CrossFit and basketball. Follow Dani on Twitter @DaniFava_TDA, for the latest in wealth tech.


1 Comment

Grooming Future Clients by Teaching Them Financial Literacy at Young Ages

If you want to build predicative relationships that produce income, referrals and loyalty, then start seeding your network and community with financial literacy resources and experiences for kids.

Yes. You can get current clients and groom future clients by helping to make it easy for others to teach children about money while kids are young.

By others I am referring to parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and community leaders.

By young, I mean kids 3, 4 and 5.

You want to give families every chance to optimize their success as a unit and as individuals. This means starting the financial education and compound growth processes early, when they have the most impact and can make the biggest difference. You want to shape habits and feelings—not correct them—if you are lucky enough to do so.

Let this be clear and plain for everyone to see. Let this be a testament to who you are. As Garrett Planning Network founder, Sheryl Garrett shared with me, it is simple. When you invest in kids’ financial education, it sends a strong message on exactly what you value and stand for. Championing youth financial literacy and making it easy to teach kids about money tangibly demonstrates leadership, long-term thinking and social responsibility. It shows concern for families. It signals you understand the constant pressures they confront daily when it comes to managing money, including addressing the “gimmes.”

Nothing could be more organic and authentic than financial service professionals helping address one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century: youth financial literacy. It’s a threat to kids’ futures and the stability of family life. Kids who grow up with poor money habits and money mindsets seem more likely to turn into adults with those same behaviors, attitudes and feelings. In my opinion, it is a horrific cycle to cultivate and perpetuate.

Kids Know More About Money Than You Think

Here are two things you may not know.

One, adult money habits and attitudes are set by age 7 according to a 2013 Cambridge University study.

Two, research from Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris, France reveals infants understand more than many adults think.

You may or may not believe the research. I believe it. Why? I have led financial education programs and experiences for more than a quarter million children in eight countries and nearly 40 states. I have talked to kids and the people who teach them a lot about money. What I can share with you with one-hundred percent certainty is, young kids have ideas, feelings and associations related to money.

If you are a doubter, start asking the children in your lives about money. Generate your own firsthand data on the relationship they are developing with it. Find out for yourself what we are hardwiring into their heads and hearts about this essential topic.

Do not be fooled by whether they are able to articulate cogent explanations of personal finance concepts and terms. Stay alert to what they say, think and feel about the subject. Tune in to their habits and attitudes.

What you may conclude is this is exactly the time you can be of the greatest assistance to kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and community leaders. It is precisely when the wealth builder versus spender battle is being won and lost. It is the determinative and pivotal point when you want to sow the seeds of financial freedom and security into kids’ thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns.

Be that voice and source of resources. Impart that financial knowledge for kids and families. Have them associate those memories and mindsets with you.

Here are some tips on how to go about it.

  • Volunteer to read to kids. Read them storybooks with a personal finance lesson. You can do it at schools, after school programs, youth clubs, community agencies or in your office. And/or you can provide clients and community organizations with story books and other “incentives” that teach children about money. Naturally, two of our favorite storybooks are Sammy’s Big Dream and It’s a Habit, Sammy Rabbit!
  • Offer parenting workshops on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can do them live or online via a webinar.
  • Include a parenting tips column in a newsletter or a blog.
  • Write columns for local newspapers and online blogs.
  • Survey and quiz clients, prospects and community leaders on what they learned about money as children. And, do the same with respect to what they are passing on to the kids in their lives whether they be their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.

Advising Parents on Teaching Money Skills

What should you advise parents to teach young kids’ money?

Start with and stick to the basics—saving, earning, spending smart, giving wisely, investing regularly and tracking your money.

Stress saving. Here is why. Saving has multiple benefits. It’s a cornerstone upon which many other money and success skills can be taught. Saving teaches discipline, delayed gratification, preparedness, planning and goal-setting. Saving protects us from poor spending choices. Saving positions us to invest with less risk. Saving provides more freedom and choices. Saving builds confidence and character. I strongly agree with pioneering research scientist Thornton T. Munger who said:

“The habit of saving is itself an education; if fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought and so broadens the mind.”

In terms of how to teach, I strongly favor strategies that are interactive or participatory. Learning by doing is one of my favorite education strategies. Keep things simple and “sticky” if possible—in other words easy to remember. Here are a few ideas for your consideration.

  • Give kids short money slogans on the core topics cited above that they can say out loud, write out, color or decorate. For example, three of my favorites are: Saving money is a great habit; earning money is fun to do; and save and grow.
  • Read kids storybooks with a personal finance lesson. Have them repeat key messages and phrases out loud.
  • Have kids play store, practice shopping and making change.
  • Have kids write out grocery lists. Or have kids make check marks on grocery lists.
  • Have kids organize and stack coupons.
  • Play personal finance games with kids.
  • Have kids make their own personal savings jar.
  • Sing and color with kids. Sammy Rabbit has several toe-tapping tunes that are available for free on Spotify and YouTube like: “Get in the Habit,” “S-A-V-E,” and “Lemonade Stand.”

If you can help ensure kids master these topics you will have set them up for financial success in life. Those are the kinds of relationships and memories everyone values!

Sam Renick

Sam X. Renick is an award-winning financial educator, children’s author and songwriter. He is the driving force behind Sammy Rabbit and his Dream Big Read financial education strategy. You can learn more about Sam and Sammy at SammyRabbit.com.